This serious infection of the female reproductive organs can cause long-term complications such as infertility and chronic pain. Know the symptoms and causes.
Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) is an infection of the female reproductive organs. It most often occurs when sexually transmitted bacteria spread from your vagina to your uterus, fallopian tubes or ovaries.
The signs and symptoms of pelvic inflammatory disease can be subtle or mild. Some women don't experience any signs or symptoms. As a result, you might not realize you have it until you have trouble getting pregnant or you develop chronic pelvic pain.
Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) is an infection of one or more of the upper reproductive organs, including the uterus, fallopian tubes and ovaries. Untreated PID can cause scar tissue and pockets of infected fluid (abscesses) to develop in the reproductive tract, which can cause permanent damage.
The signs and symptoms of pelvic inflammatory disease might be mild and difficult to recognize. Some women don't have any signs or symptoms. When signs and symptoms of PID are present, they most often include:
See your health care provider or seek urgent medical care if you experience:
If you have signs and symptoms of PID that aren't severe, still see your provider as soon as possible. Vaginal discharge with an odor, painful urination or bleeding between periods can also be symptoms of a sexually transmitted infection (STI). If these signs and symptoms occur, stop having sex and see your provider soon. Prompt treatment of an STI can help prevent PID.
Many types of bacteria can cause PID, but gonorrhea or chlamydia infections are the most common. These bacteria are usually acquired during unprotected sex.
Less commonly, bacteria can enter your reproductive tract anytime the normal barrier created by the cervix is disturbed. This can happen during menstruation and after childbirth, miscarriage or abortion. Rarely, bacteria can also enter the reproductive tract during the insertion of an intrauterine device (IUD) — a form of long-term birth control — or any medical procedure that involves inserting instruments into the uterus.
A number of factors might increase your risk of pelvic inflammatory disease, including:
There is a small increased risk of PID after the insertion of an intrauterine device (IUD). This risk is generally confined to the first three weeks after insertion.
Untreated pelvic inflammatory disease might cause scar tissue and pockets of infected fluid (abscesses) to develop in the reproductive tract. These can cause permanent damage to the reproductive organs.
Complications from this damage might include:
To reduce your risk of pelvic inflammatory disease:
There is no one test that can accurately diagnose pelvic inflammatory disease. Instead, your health care provider will rely on a combination of findings from:
If the diagnosis is still unclear, you may need additional tests, such as:
Prompt treatment with medicine can get rid of the infection that causes pelvic inflammatory disease. But there's no way to reverse any scarring or damage to the reproductive tract that PID might have caused. Treatment for PID most often includes:
If you're pregnant, seriously ill, have a suspected abscess or haven't responded to oral medications, you might need hospitalization. You might receive intravenous antibiotics, followed by antibiotics you take by mouth.
Surgery is rarely needed. However, if an abscess ruptures or threatens to rupture, your provider might drain it. You might also need surgery if you don't respond to antibiotic treatment or have a questionable diagnosis, such as when one or more of the signs or symptoms of PID are absent.
Pelvic inflammatory disease can bring up difficult or stressful feelings. You may be dealing with the diagnosis of a sexually transmitted infection, possible infertility or chronic pain. To help you cope with the ups and downs of your diagnosis, consider these strategies:
If you have signs or symptoms of pelvic inflammatory disease, make an appointment to see your health care provider.
Here's some information on what you can do to get ready and what to expect from your provider.
Some basic questions to ask include:
Be ready to answer a number of questions, such as: